One goes down, more go up: Hudson community rallies after LGBT flags burned
Rainbows are spreading across Hudson, filling the space left along Orange Street with new rainbow flags after three were stolen last week.
When Kate and Pete Larson's LGBT rainbow flag was stolen multiple times last year, their neighbors Alice and Dave Urban, Amy and Jon Hester, and Carol Holton flew their own flags in solidarity.
Last week, sometime between April 5 and 6, three of the houses' flags were taken again, and two were found burnt in the area along Orange Street from Fifth to Sixth streets. The Hudson Police Department is investigating the burnings as a potential hate crime.
PREVIOUSLY: Hudson LGBT pride flags burned, stolen
"This is the first time that it's been ramped up," Chief Marty Jensen said.
After previous thefts of their flags, the Larsons said they weren't exactly surprised to see it was gone again.
"I was just bracing myself," Kate said.
The burning of the flags, however, stunned them.
"I hadn't anticipated that kind of vitriol," Pete said.
"The escalation of taking several and then burning them was extreme," Kate said. "It's scary."
The couple said they're glad to see the act is being investigated as a potential hate crime, as they felt the previous thefts were a biased act.
After this escalation, their neighbors have once again rallied behind them, on a wider scale.
"Originally we thought you tear one down, four go back up," Dave Urban said. "And so this is sort of the same thing. You tear four down and maybe a hundred go up."
Rebecca Bonesteel is close to hitting that hundred mark. Over the weekend, she and her three daughters passed out fliers asking others to fly the rainbow flag. They raised $385, enough for 60 flags, and already have 45 people who said they will be flying them.
"It's a horrible thing that happened," Bonesteel said. "That's not what Hudson is made of."
Denise Carter said she is now flying her own rainbow flag after learning about the incident. She said no matter someone's beliefs, it is not acceptable to treat them disrespectfully. Already a supporter of the LGBT community, Carter said this spurred her to be more vocal.
"I'm not going to just sit back," Carter said. "This allows me that voice that says, you know what, not here."
The rainbow colors of support could be seen on the ground as well as in the air, after a group of Hudson High School students spent their Friday afternoon drawing messages of inclusion and support in chalk throughout the neighborhood.
"We were just kind of really frustrated by that and the hate we saw in the community," sophomore Anna Arthur said.
The flag owners have also received personal messages of support, including cards, flowers and flag donations.
"I'm overwhelmed," Pete said. "I think it's absolutely lovely to see people of all different ages and all different backgrounds saying the same thing, you're welcome, all of us are welcome here."
Kate said they have seen support from a well of people, from those who have the same beliefs, to others who may not agree, but still want to show respect.
"They just want you to know that you're safe and they support you regardless of what worldview and values you have," Kate said.
Holton said she hopes the community continues to grow from this, and is open to different values.
"I would feel wonderful if every house on this block had a flag," she said. "I can't think of a better answer than that."
A new flag is already flying at the Larson house, Dave Urban built a temporary rainbow sign until a new flag can go up and Holton also plans to fly another one. They'll be joined by many of their neighbors in Hudson.
"They can destroy a flag but they can't destroy a movement," Holton said.
The Hudson Police Department is looking for the public's help in the cases. Anyone with information is asked to call the Hudson Police Department at 715-386-4771.